The Oculus Go was released on Tuesday, May 1st at the Facebook F8 developer conference, and it is a self-contained, 3-DoF mobile VR HMD with a price of $199 that is optimized for media consumption and social VR interactions. Facebook showed off four primary applications including Oculus TV, Oculus Gallery, Oculus Rooms, and Oculus Venues. The Oculus Venues will be treated as public spaces that will be governed by Oculus’ updated Terms of Service that has a code of conduct to ensure safe online spaces. In order to enforce the code of conduct, then Oculus will need to do some amount of capturing and recording of what happens in these virtual spaces, which has a number of privacy implications and tradeoffs between cultivating safe online spaces that may erode aspects of the freedom of speech and the 4th amendment rights to privacy within these virtual spaces.
Facebook announced at F8 that it is planning on moderating other Facebook networks through AI moderation, and so it’s likely that Oculus will also eventually try to moderate virtual spaces with AI. What will it mean to have our public virtual interactions mediated by AI overlords? This brings up questions about the limits and capabilities of supervised machine learning to technologically engineer cultural behaviors. The Cleaners documentary at Sundance went behind the scenes of human content moderators of Facebook to demonstrate how subjective the enforcement of terms of service policies can be leaving avant-guard artists susceptible to false positive censorship that results in permanent bans from these communication platforms with no appeals processes. How will AI solve a problem where it’s impossible to define objective definitions of free speech that spans the full spectrum of artistic expression to terrorist propaganda? So Facebook is becoming larger than any single government, but they don’t have the same levels of democratic accountability through democratic models of virtual governance or appeals processes for bans.
So while Oculus Go is an amazing technological achievement of hardware, software, and user experience, there are some larger open questions about the role of Facebook and what will happen to our data on this platform. What is their plan for virtual governance? How will they deal with the long-term implications of bans? What does the appeals process look like for false positives of code of conduct violations? What data are being recorded? How will Facebook notify users when they start recording new data or change data recording policies? What data will be sent from Oculus to Facebook? Why don’t these online spaces have peer-to-peer encryption? Does Facebook want to eventually listen into all of our virtual conversations? How will Facebook navigate the balance between free speech and the desires of governments to control speech?
At F8, I had a chance to talk with Oculus Go product manager Madhu Muthukumar about the primary use cases & hardware features of the Oculus Go, but also some of the larger questions about privacy, free speech, virtual governance. Facebook/Oculus seem to be taking an iterative approach to these questions, but they also tend to be very reactive to problems rather than proactively thinking through the long-term philosophical implications of their technologies where they are proactively taking preventative measures.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST
Just arrived to #F8.
I'll be covering all of the VR/AR news from Facebook/Oculus.
I'll be roaming around the next couple of days covering the VR/AR sessions, doing interviews, and I have a demo at 1p.
The keynote starts at 10a & will be livestreamed here: https://t.co/dKhR5NaVSb pic.twitter.com/zYJx23Q07l
— Kent Bye (Voices of VR) (@kentbye) May 1, 2018
Facebook is dealing with a lot of trust issues, and their message at F8 was that they’re 100% dedicated to building technologies that connect people despite the risks. Technology can always be abused, but that shouldn’t scare us into not building solutions because Facebook sees that on the whole that they are doing more good than bad. The problem is that Facebook is siphoning our private data, eroding privacy, and their quantified world of social relationships has arguably weakened intimate connections and inauthentic interactions. Facebook claims to want to cultivate community, but they fail to connect the dots for how their behaviors around privacy have eroded trust, intimacy, and will continue to weaken the community and connection they claim to be all about. At the end of the day, Facebook is a performance-based marketing company using the mechanism of surveillance capitalism, and ultimately these financial incentives is what is driving their success and behaviors.
Virtual Reality has the potential to move away from the tyranny of abstractions inherent in communicating through the written word, but Oculus did not offer and promise peer-to-peer encryption for all of our social interactions in VR. The are leaving that door open because, which sends me the message that they like to listen in to everything we say or do in VR. Is that the world that we really want to create? Jaron Larnier argues that it absolutely isn’t. At TED this year, Lanier said, “We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them.”
This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So there's a new virtual reality HMD headset that was just released this past week on Tuesday, May 1st at the Facebook F8 conference. Oculus released the Oculus Go headset. It's a three degree of freedom headset. So you can't do positional tracking. You just look left, right, up, down. And it's got a three degree of freedom controller as well. So it's a self-contained unit where you don't have to put your phone in and out. And it's actually only $199. So it's actually a lot cheaper than buying a phone that would need to go with a gear VR. So this is a standalone headset. It's basically you put it on and you're in VR. So this is a huge step forward. And, you know, a lot of people were asking me after F8, like what I thought about the headset. And I have a lot of like complicated thoughts. I think the hardware itself and the software, it's a great user experience. I guess my concern is the overarching ownership of Facebook, what's going to be happening with the data that is being collected. as well as, you know, just Facebook as a company and as they're moving forward. Obviously, there's been a lot of news about Facebook. You know, they're basically creating this platform where they have 2 billion users. And so they're getting to the point where they're going to be bigger than any one singular government. And what are the implications of having a corporation that is basically mediating the experiences of that many people? At that point, they kind of turn into a government, but yet there's not a lot of mechanisms to have the levels of accountability that governments have within a democracy. So they're kind of like the equivalent of a totalitarian government, but as a private corporation. And so I think that within itself, there's a lot of various issues in terms of privacy, what's going to be happening with our data. As well as like these governance models, like, you know, if they're going to be trying to create these safe online spaces for people, then what are the implications of if you get banned? What are the ways in which you are going to be able to come back and get yourself unbanned? There's a documentary that was at Sundance this year called The Cleaners, which went into the content moderation. outsourcing that is happening in these different Asian countries, where basically these people from not our culture are making these decisions as to what should and should not be on the platform. And I think part of the solution that I got from F8 was that There's going to be a lot of AI moderation in the future of Facebook. And so we're going to have these AI overloads that are going to be deciding what the boundary between free speech and terrorist propaganda is going to be. And I think that's a problem that is very subjective. to say that you're just going to solve it with artificial intelligence and machine learning ignores the fact that there's still a lot of human subjectivity that is going into that. And so there's, there's actually a lot of really complicated, nuanced issues as to, as we move forward into this new digital realm, what are some of the implications of that? And in this interview today, I had a chance to talk to a product manager, Madhu Mathukumar. And he's able to give an overview of the product. And I ask him some of these questions about privacy and these larger issues. And I think that they're still kind of figuring it out, which, well, I'll have the interview and be able to unpack it a little bit more afterwards. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Madhu happened on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 at the F8 conference in San Jose, California. So, with that, let's go ahead and dive right in. There's a number of different announcements that were made. I think probably the biggest ones that I think are concerned around the Oculus Go are the three main new applications that are kind of the premier highlights for Oculus Go. Maybe you could walk through each of those, and also just kind of the news of the announcement of everything else, of the logistics of the Oculus Go.
[00:04:11.974] Madhu Muthukumar: Sure. Wow, there's a lot to talk about. We're excited about, obviously, the device itself. We're excited about the applications that are launching alongside Oculus Go. Look, I think the most important thing for us here is Oculus Go builds on what we've learned building Oculus Rift, but also building Gear VR with Samsung. And a lot of what you see, both in the hardware and the software, is that evolution. We can start with the hardware, for instance. There are three main areas where the hardware reflects what we've learned and where we think building great VR is going. The first is comfort, making sure that the headset feels good when you put it on. The second is the optics, making sure VR looks good. That's very important. And then the last is making sure the sound is really great as well. Of course, there's much more to a VR headset than just that. But those three areas were places where we were able to learn a lot from Oculus Rift, but also learn a lot from Gear VR. On the comfort side, if you look at the Oculus Go, the first thing you probably notice are these soft straps. This is a change from other devices we've built, but it comes from kind of a focus of making sure that this device is something that everyone can kind of approach and use. The soft straps are good for various hairstyles. In fact, this top strap is totally removable. It allows people who have top knot braids, any types of hair, and also this split strap kind of like curls right against the back of your head. It makes it a much more comfortable experience. Easier to take off, easier to put on. Also easier to fold up and you can just see like into the headset and put this whole thing into a bag. And so the idea around comfort starts kind of at the straps, but kind of permeates through the whole device. Beyond the straps, the next place that we put a lot of effort and comfort is actually this facial interface. The facial interface, as Hugo was saying on stage, takes a lot of things that we've learned from the sportswear, the apparel industries, the garment industry, to try to understand how do you build something that's going to feel comfortable over a long period of time on people's face. The fit is something we spent a lot of time with, hundreds and hundreds of people where we wanted to make sure that this was something that you wanted to put on. We didn't want rubbing or chafing or anything like that. We wanted this to feel really great because that's the first part of a VR experience for a lot of people who are getting in. Beyond that, things that you might be interested as well, we know that people want to be able to use VR with glasses, you're wearing glasses, I normally do. And so we've widened the cavity actually of the Oculus Go so you can just put it on right on top of glasses. It also makes it really easy to pass to your friends, right? You don't have to predict if your friends are wearing glasses or not. You can just hand them a headset and they can jump in. For people who have glasses but don't wanna wear them, you can actually pop these lens rings out. And on oculus.com, you can order prescription inserts for these. So like that should give you a sense for how much we're thinking about making this headset something that people can just jump into and use kind of right away. So that's the comfort side of the house. After you've got this on and it's comfortable, the next kind of most important thing is it looks really good. So you've used a bunch of VR devices. The two probably most important things on the hardware side are the lenses and the display panel. These lenses are an upgrade on the lenses in Oculus Rift. So despite the affordable price point at $199, what we're trying to deliver is premium VR specs where they matter. The display panel is a fast switch LCD, and that fast switch is what gets you the reduction of motion blur, it gives you less ghosting, and the fact that we can use bigger pixels on an LCD actually gets rid of more of that screen door effect. So we've heard this from people as we built Gear VR, as we've been building Oculus Rift, we understand that there's things that can make the visual experience better, and that's what we focused on with Oculus Go. And then the last thing I talked about is the audio. We're particularly proud of the audio solution. It's a built-in integrated audio solution such that you take it out of the box, it just works. The speaker modules, you can't even see them, they're actually in the front panel. And then we pipe the sound through these strap arms and it comes out of these vents near your ears. And what's really kind of magic about this is it means that you don't have to plug anything in, there's no wires, you can just put it on and you get spatial sound. And that's pretty fun. Of course, we know that some people want headphones, and there's a headphone jack in case you want it. But kind of as I was saying to you at the top, everything we've done here, we've taken stuff that we've learned previously, and we've tried to apply it into a more kind of simple, approachable model so that people who are interested in VR, people who already have VR devices, both can kind of see the advantages of what we're building here. So I think from the hardware perspective, those are the big notes that if you're getting an Oculus Go or you're interested in Oculus Go, you probably want to know about. Of course, I mean, I've skipped maybe the biggest one. There's no wires, there's no computer, there's no phone you have to clip in. But, you know, that standalone all-in-one nature we also think makes this far more approachable. So that's the hardware. You asked about the software too. The software, I think, it's harder to see it, but also comes from listening to our communities. So when you listen to the Oculus Rift community and ask them what makes a great VR headset, the community will tell you lots of things. They want to make sure the controllers are really great, that the performance is really good, that the screens are really clear, the lenses are great. And of course, those are all things that we worked on. When we talked more with the Gear VR community, we heard a lot of the same, and that was, you know, stuff we expected. But what we didn't expect is that lots of people started telling us how much they loved using their Gear VR for TV, movies, media. And I think that's the biggest surprise. When we started hearing that, we dug deeper. We listened to more people here in the U.S., outside the United States. We heard so many interesting stories where people would say things like, I live in a house with five other roommates. We have one nice TV. If I don't want to watch Great British Bake Off when they do, I'm kind of stuck. I had to go to my room and use my phone. But now I've got this headset. I put the headset on, and boom, I've got a 150-inch TV, and I don't feel like there's compromises. We heard people tell us things like, I'm a businesswoman. I travel. At the end of a long day, I just want to be able to pick up my Netflix where I left off, and I don't want to use my work computer for that. And so I've started packing my headset. We heard people tell us, my partner won't let me put a TV in the bedroom. We don't have enough space for a TV. But if I want to watch 30 more minutes before I go to bed and I don't want to bother anyone, the headset turns out to be a really great thing. And so when you hear it once, you go, oh, that's interesting. When you hear it twice, you think to yourself, oh, there might be something here. But when you hear it as many times as we heard it from the community, you say, we have to be able to help. That's our responsibility. And so part of that is the hardware, but the other part of that is the software. So alongside Oculus Go, we have four big apps that are either new or updated that help people get closer to this entertainment and media content that they love. The first is a simple one called Oculus TV. I think Hugo shared some of the details during the keynote. And the idea is simple. You sit on your couch today, you have a TV, you're used to using some TV apps. We want to take those experiences and bring them into virtual TV and VR. So you can pick up where you left off. Of course, there are already VR apps like Netflix and Hulu, and we love the fact that they're building VR apps and we want to support anyone who wants to bring more VR media apps to the platform. But we also know there are some apps that haven't made it quite yet. And so the goal for us is to help those providers transition their services into VR where fans can watch on a really big, beautiful screen. Like I said to you earlier, the lenses and displays are pretty upgraded, and it allows you to read text pretty clearly and view images in their richness. And so when you are able to do that on a 180-inch screen, there's real value there, let alone later this year when you're going to be able to bring your friends and do that too. So, very excited about Oculus TV. Simple concept for folks who don't have a TV near them, don't want to buy a TV, have too many people in the house, want to do this on the go. We think this is a really great option, and it's almost a direct response to things we've heard from the Gear VR community. The second product that is coming out alongside Oculus Go is one called Oculus Gallery. And this also comes from quite a lot of feedback we've received. And what that feedback basically said was, hey, I really use my headset to show people this immersive media that I'm shooting. So if I've taken a panorama on my iPhone, there's no really good way for me to share it. Like if I share it on my phone, it kind of looks like a hot dog, these big letterboxed out areas. We also heard people say, I bought a 360 camera. I take all these pictures. In fact, I've got one in my pocket right now. And when I try to show you a 360 photo, it's an OK experience, but it's not really like being there. And what people were telling us was being able to replay these things in VR matters. It's game changing for 360 media, for drone photography. And so what Oculus Gallery lets you do is bring those files, your files, whether they're on Dropbox or you have them on the internet somewhere and you can download them to the device, you've posted them to Facebook, you've posted them to Instagram, you have a home media server. Our goal is to make it super easy for you to get your files and to be able to view them in VR and to use as much of the field of view and as much of the resolutions we have to make it look really great. And so, yeah, maybe you'll get a chance to try it if you've got a 360 camera. Personally, I find this to be the number one reason I am shooting in 360 now because I can just videotape my son and then put someone into a headset and it feels like they're there. It's pretty magic. So that's the second app. It's called Oculus Gallery. Very excited about that. And then there's two that we showed on stage. Oculus Rooms, which is a big update to an existing app. And that update kind of takes all the things we've learned over the last year of shipping that, all the feedback we've gotten from the community about the parts that they really liked and what they maybe wanted more of. We announced today that we're doing a partnership with Hasbro. So Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly are coming. Boggle will be there at launch. And so we're very excited about this ability for people to play games that they're used to playing with their family, be able to turn movies on the screen, turn 3D movies on, a big, nice screen where you can hang out with people, listen to music, or find apps in VR that all of you should go and play together. So personally, this is what I use it the most for. I'll get into VR. I'll see someone else. We'll jump into a room together. Either we'll flip through some random internet videos. But really, what we'll do is go, what apps do we have in common that we can go off and play right now? Oh, we can play Wands. Cool. Let's go play Wands. And so we're really excited about the update to Oculus Rooms. We think it's both more approachable, but also, you know, we think it's more powerful and letting you do the things that people want to do. And then the last is Oculus Venues. I think Mark even talked about this at Oculus Connect, and now we've shown it on the stage again, and we have our first live event happening at the end of May. But Venues is a fairly simple concept. People want to be able to go out and do things, especially go out and do live things. live concerts, live comedy shows, watching live sports, going to a movie screening. This kind of ability to go somewhere is something that VR can offer you that's fun and people really find rewarding. And so we wanted to make that possible. And we've heard that from the community a ton as well, which is this ability to just be able to put on a headset and forget where you are, be somewhere else, and then come back when you need to. And so we're very excited about Oculus Venues, which lets people build a virtual crowd. Like I said, the first live event, I believe, is a concert at the end of May, and then there'll be a fairly large slate of things to do after that, and we're excited to see where people go and where they want to go. So across those four, Oculus TV, galleries, rooms, venues, we're trying to make Oculus Go a more approachable, easy-to-understand, fantastic entertainment device that gets you closer to TV, movies, media, music, sports, the kind of things that people have told us that they want to use VR for. and an affordable and easy package. So I think that's the long monologue, I guess.
[00:15:03.427] Kent Bye: No, that's good. It's a good overview. I want to sort of take a step back and ask about maybe a structural issue, because we're here at F8. It's Facebook's developer conference. I've been to all of the Oculus Connects, where Mark Zuckerberg will come and give a keynote for the last couple ones. And so I have a little trouble to, when I talk about Facebook or Oculus, I sort of just call it Facebook slash Oculus, because I have trouble knowing what that line is and if that line is blurred. And since Brendan Urbay stepped down as CEO, then there was sort of a, Hugo is, I guess, the VP of Facebook over VR, AR. So I guess this is also leading into the long term as these different software products are coming out. I know that Oculus had launched with their initial identity system and having people disassociate or disconnected from their Facebook account. But I'm just wondering if there's a trajectory or trend that you kind of see this consolidation of everybody's eventually going to be using their Facebook accounts in order to mediate all these different friend connections.
[00:16:02.031] Madhu Muthukumar: It's a great question. I think there's a few things that are true at the same time. The first is we deeply respect people's ability to make choices about their data, their privacy, their identity. The fact that you have an Oculus ID is an important part of that, and we respect that. You'll notice with Oculus Go, but also with Gear VR, you have a choice. If you'd like to connect to Facebook services, you can do so. We make that explicit. We make sure that you're aware when that connection's happening, and the same thing is true for Oculus Go. If you decide that you don't want to use an account, that's your choice. We want to be able to protect your ability to express yourself the way you want to in VR. With that said, another thing is true at the same time, which is we're finding that more people are connecting to their friends in VR than ever before. And to be able to do that, one of the best mechanisms is, in fact, to say, hey, I'd like to connect to Facebook. That helps you find people that you may not even know have a VR device who may have picked one up, and especially with Oculus Go becoming more available and more approachable, we do expect people to use Facebook Connect to find their friends. Where this goes long term, I think, is hard to speculate. But what I will say is certainly true is we deeply respect people's ability to express themselves and be able to protect what parts that they would like to protect. I'm not sure that that is a change based off of any of the organizational stuff that you mentioned. I think it's a philosophy of what do people want to do in VR. At the end of the day, what will make this industry successful and what will help Oculus play a part in that is respecting the wishes of the people in the community. We take that seriously. And so we know that there's a good reason for why you might want to game as your gamertag. We know that there's a good reason for why you might want to be your real self when you're sitting on the couch with your roommate. Our goal is to make both of those things possible in the same place.
[00:17:54.805] Madhu Muthukumar: We're certainly a part of Facebook, as much as Instagram is a part of Facebook, or WhatsApp is a part of Facebook. And I think what's more important is that we're able to communicate that with our end users, like the people who are in VR. And to date, anytime we use, I believe we refer to Oculus, when we want to connect you to Facebook, we tell you so. I see no reason why we wouldn't do that going forward. What's most important to us is that people feel comfortable, that they feel safe, that they have understanding and expectations. I know you talked with Max Cohen and Jenny Hall about this. You know, we believe that that's what's going to create a vibrant and fruitful VR community is the ability for people to kind of be able to do either or.
[00:18:30.893] Kent Bye: Well, one of the things that I've noticed is that there's a number of different contexts with connecting to people in social VR. There's either a public context where you're in a public space and you're kind of just interacting with people. And then there's like these private contexts that seem to be emerging where you're having interactions with your friends and maybe these rooms. So I guess I'm curious, with the new terms of service and the code of conduct, how do you foresee implementing that in these different contexts? And if there are going to be the equivalent of WhatsApp, which is encrypted communications, which are very much a private context. And then there's the messenger, which I guess is a similar functionality, but there's less encryption. There's sort of a difference. public-private context there. So I'm just curious how you foresee, now that you've implemented new terms of service in these social spaces to create these safe environments, what's the plan for actually enforcing those?
[00:19:24.714] Madhu Muthukumar: That's a great question. So I don't think the terms of service change the way that we've think about the philosophy of what we're doing. We've always wanted to make sure that this is a safe place for people to be able to interact. You can look back a year. We launched Rooms, and our first product inside of Oculus was designed around getting your friends together. The same thing is true of Facebook Spaces, right? It's to get your friends together. We know that VR is a really powerful medium. We know that when you're able to sit next to someone that you know, virtually sit next to someone you know, it feels magical. We also know that the opposite is true, where if you find yourself in a situation that's threatening or harassing, that it can be particularly bad. And so, you know, our first explorations into the space of how do we get people together in VR is one that we've taken with measured steps and tried to understand, okay, what are the benefits? How do we create and foster safe communities? How do we help people express themselves in ways that they feel comfortable with and ways that they can leave if they need be? As we now take our steps going forward, we keep that philosophy in mind, right? Like that's the core of making VR and the industry generally successful. Our belief is that we can defy distance. We can help people get closer to each other using VR because they can overcome any other barrier that they might have. That said, we want to make sure that we can extend protections to people. So a great example of this is something like venues, where we're going to let people go to live concerts together. We explicitly have a code of conduct inside of Oculus Venues that tells you the types of behavior that we believe are unacceptable things to do. And we've taken a number of steps to start creating an infrastructure around abuse prevention that allows people to moderate and or report people around them. you know, this is something that takes a long time to get to. It takes us a lot of thought. It takes a lot of testing. I can't pretend to tell you we know all of the answers, but I can tell you we take it really seriously. As part of that, you may be required in some cases to authenticate into Facebook. Why? Because it gives us a really easy way for us to cut down on bad actors. And so we do think there's going to be benefits both in connecting with Facebook and using Facebook data when we ask for it. We also think there's benefits in not doing so. I think creating safe spaces in VR, creating places where people can feel comfortable being themselves congregating around interests, watching TV. You know, it's a lot of uncharted territory and we want to be careful about that and we want to be very thoughtful. So I think we're at the beginning of a long learning phase.
[00:22:23.703] Madhu Muthukumar: This is a great question. And the depth and nuance of this conversation is like immense, right? Everything from what is a ban to who should be banned, how long is a ban, if bans are effective. These are topics that are very challenging regardless of VR. Just take this into the regular world. This is something that's quite difficult for the internet that we know and understand. We're thoughtful about this. I don't know that we can tell you. Hey, we have a firm answer for all of these things today I can tell you we've thought about it I can tell you we're lucky to work at a place like Facebook who does have 2 billion people using their platform and they do moderate and think about ways of creating a safe community and All I can say is that we will work hard on them with venues for instance. There's an ability for you to report someone, we make it possible for you to capture the bad actors in their activity, we make it possible for you to submit that, we review those things, and we will take actions accordingly. Exactly what those actions will be five years from now, ten years from now, I can't pretend to know. What I can tell you is we take it really seriously and we want to make sure that even if this is not the right method, that we're implementing methods that try to prevent the negative and instead portray the positives of VR, which are when people feel like they have these alternatives, when people feel like they're in a community or they're in a public space where there are all these rules, where there are these expectations that people will behave the way they do in real life, which is for the most part when you're around other people, we're respectful and organized and contributing to a positive general interaction.
[00:24:55.619] Madhu Muthukumar: That's a great question. I think the ambiguity is partly because we're early in the industry and I think it would be very difficult for us to speak with a great deal of confidence on exactly what the right methods are. What I can tell you is, I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment, which is that the communication is the most important part. Again, part of this is expectation setting and giving people the choice of whether they do or don't want to participate in those rules. With Oculus Venues, for instance, we give you a code of conduct up front and we let you know that if these types of actions are taken, that they could be reported and that you could be asked to leave the area. With rooms, we don't do any sort of caching or recording, and so we don't communicate that up front. If that were to change, we would communicate that. So I think the most important part of this continues to be our ability to communicate with users, let them make informed choices. For instance, if I don't want my photo taken, I won't go out to a shopping mall, right? Like, there's understood things in the real world. In VR, I don't think anyone understands that yet. It's our responsibility to make sure we communicate that very clearly and set those expectations so that people can make informed choices. If you decide not to go to a venue because you'd like for someone to be able to report something you do, that's your choice and we can respect that.
[00:25:59.116] Kent Bye: Has Facebook thought about, is there a way to communicate? As I have this conversation, you're telling me this stuff. I got a lot of information from both Jenny and Max, and I'm getting more information from you. But is there more of a database approach of people being able to have access to, in this context, this is what is happening? Because you just said right now that the data aren't being recorded in rooms. And there may be some level of recording, but what the details of that actually look like, there's a certain amount of ambiguity there that I think, in terms of transparency, it would just be nice to find ways to communicate somehow.
[00:26:32.161] Madhu Muthukumar: Is there a single database? I mean, it's a good question. I think, again, not trying to be coy, every experience is different. If you're playing a game, the game is going to want to know which direction you're facing, and the game is going to want to know if you've moved your hand, et cetera, or if you've spoken to a friend. And so as a developer, regardless of who you are, you'll be collecting some amount of information just as the system is trying to learn how to calibrate your controller or calibrate your headset. I think going forward, we'll continue to pay a lot of attention to this. Is there a standard approach to this? No, I don't think so. Is there a philosophy that we have about communication? Yes, definitely. And so it's our job to continue to do our best to let people know what they can expect in VR. And we're at the beginning of that.
[00:27:14.045] Kent Bye: And I know that for Oculus, for the Rift, there's the Facebook Spaces, which is sort of like using the full dimension of 60-degree controllers. And I didn't hear anything so far today or anything about porting Facebook Spaces into Oculus Go. So I'm curious to hear, like, if you foresee in the future if, like, the Santa Cruz is going to be more of the 60-degree of freedom, more analogous to what you can do on the Rift, and there's going to be more high-fidelity experiences that really push the limits of what you can do with that level of fidelity of interaction and communication in VR, and that, you know, maybe at some point there'll be a convergence between something like rooms, which is, to me, it seems like there's a little bit of a overlap in the types of functionality here, but maybe kind of more well-suited to a three degree of freedom.
[00:27:59.710] Madhu Muthukumar: Again, you've hit it on the head, right? I think with Facebook Spaces, the team there is experimenting with What is it like to build a social product using the assets of the Oculus Rift or a Six Degree of Freedom headset? And to do that, you have an amazing wealth of interactivity, immersion, graphical horsepower that's under your control. I think the question for Oculus Rooms has always been, what would we imagine that being for a more affordable or approachable headset? The fact that some of the functionalities overlap, I think, is a reflection of what people want to do. People probably want to watch TV. They want to be able to talk to their friends. They want to be able to express themselves in an avatar. And so that level of overlap, I think, is both expected and OK. I think what's interesting is trying to learn and trying to create places where it feels natural for that device. So Oculus Rooms, for instance, has always been designed with a three degree of freedom headset in mind. Now that we're more than a year in, you can see the fruits of that. Things from transportation or expressing yourself inside the room, your ability to customize pieces, your ability to kind of jump out into games across the platform. You know, it's built purposefully for the audience of people who are interested in Three Degree of Freedom content, but also for people who have specifically that controller. And so, you know, we're excited again. I keep saying this, but I can't double down on it enough. We're early in what's going to be hopefully a long and fruitful path for this industry. We have a lot of pride in saying that we're learning and we're trying to make this better every step of the way.
[00:29:27.711] Kent Bye: And so have we seen the last version of the Gear VR?
[00:29:31.134] Madhu Muthukumar: Oh, no. We're working with Samsung right now. They're a great partner. We still believe if you've got a Samsung phone that that may be the best way for you to experience VR. We also know from talking to the community that some people wanted a dedicated VR device. And so again, given where we are and how we want to make VR a more approachable technology for people, we wanted there to be another option, which is something that you could feel comfortable passing around your home, something you might want to throw in your bag. But again, if you have a Samsung phone, Gear VR is a fantastic option for watching TV and movies and media.
[00:30:05.150] Kent Bye: There was a brief mention about potentially some new hardware to be able to capture 3D photos. Is this a new hardware, or is it just something that's in the phone? It was in the keynote that was presented today, where you're able to show these 3D photos. And I didn't know if that was just moving the phone around and doing the equivalent of a photogrammetry with your phone, or if you're actually creating specific hardware to do 3D capture. Was this the point cloud? No, there was a separate thing. There was the reconstruct your childhood memories world with AI. And then there was the one right before that, which was like a 3D photo of being able to move with sort of stereoscopic. I don't know if you had any additional information there. Unfortunately, no. Do you have any information about the magical AI that's going to reconstruct your childhood?
[00:30:50.716] Madhu Muthukumar: A little bit. I mean, the good news is that we've got lots of teams, obviously, who are working on trying to make magical VR experiences. I know the team, one of Rachel's teams, has been working on that. I think what the idea is is to be able to capture content on your phone the way you normally would, and then to use the AI to make something of it that feels more native to VR, something that feels a little bit more magical and something that feels like you could travel through. Personally, I can't speak at depth to it. It's not one of my teams that works on it. That said, I have played with it, and it's pretty fun.
[00:31:16.079] Kent Bye: Well, so I guess another question is that we have these standalone headsets now. There's lots of different industries in the VR ecosystem, from education, both in schools, but also in training, and then medicine. What is the plan for Facebook and Oculus to be able to address these other markets? Or are you really focusing on consumer market and social experiences and games?
[00:31:40.625] Madhu Muthukumar: Yeah, I think it's one step at a time here for us. Of course, we're excited when we hear about applications in medicine or applications in architecture or theme parks. We're always happy and proud of the work that people are doing to take VR technology and apply it in places that make a difference. That said, it is one foot in front of the other for us right now. We have been very proud of the work that we've done on Oculus Rift. And we've been very proud of the work we've done on Gear VR. And with Oculus Go, we're trying to help kind of move forward on things that we've learned there. As we learn more about those customers, the enterprise side of the world, who are the experts, in fact, in applying VR into their fields, if there are things that we can do, we'll look into them. But right now, for us, our focus is pretty squarely on making sure we can build fantastic VR devices and fantastic VR software that's broadly applicable.
[00:33:25.713] Madhu Muthukumar: Yeah, I think you covered a lot of this with Max and Jenny, especially around GDPR and especially the way that we look at our obligations of making that data available for people to know and to be able to control, right? That's important to us. And so I don't have too much more to add there. Yeah, what would I say? I think we are not collecting information we don't need. We are early in the industry, so even a positionally tracked headset, for instance, will need some amount of data. And we try to do our best to let you know, hey, we're trying to improve this headset. We're trying to improve with voice search, for instance, the voice model, to make sure that it doesn't pull up games you're not interested in in response to complex queries. But I think Max and Jenny covered a lot of it in your last discussion. I don't really have too much more to add on that. And our goal is to continue to be thoughtful about the way that we approach this problem.
[00:34:11.140] Kent Bye: Yeah, one of the new pieces of information that I got today was to see kind of the roadmap for augmented reality that is coming out both with filters and both the Messenger and Instagram. And I kind of see that there is this collision path towards using these phone-based ARs to be able to kind of have people mediate their identity through their avatar expression and to be able to interact. And changing your embodiment actually changes how you communicate and how you interact with people. But there was also some advertisings, like immersive advertising for AR that I was starting to see in that. And how do the AR components of what is happening in these other verticals, how is that sort of converging and informing you into how you're designing all these different various products?
[00:34:57.232] Madhu Muthukumar: At Oculus, we're very focused on VR. As you can imagine, we have quite a bit of work to do to make VR the fantastic medium that we believe it can be. But we're also very lucky to work alongside other teams who are thinking about AR, like you mentioned. And so internally, I would say my team certainly, all the way up as we get to Hugo, are mostly focused on how do we build fantastic VR experiences. And where there's relevance, where there are places where we can collaborate, we certainly do collaborate with peer teams who are thinking about AR. But I would tell you the vast, vast majority of our time is spent thinking about VR.
[00:35:33.766] Kent Bye: Has there been any talk about implementing secure, encrypted peer-to-peer communications in some of these rooms in VR?
[00:35:42.147] Madhu Muthukumar: Yeah, I'm not super confident. We should get back to you exactly on what those details are. I know there's obviously lots of ideas as we build almost any product. And given the fact that we care about this, I'm not surprised if someone had. But I don't have details. We could just get back to you on that.
[00:35:58.332] Kent Bye: OK. And what are you the most excited about in some of the new apps that you've seen here on Oculus Co?
[00:36:04.619] Madhu Muthukumar: Man, there's so many things I'm excited about my favorite is literally my roommate in college. He lives in in Hawthorne, New Jersey and We have this weird ritual where on Saturday mornings we watch soccer together, but we don't really watch soccer together What happens is I put my phone on speaker and? And then I turn it on and I turn on the TV, but I turn the TV on mute because there's this weird delay with the TVs. And then I basically yell at him while we watch the games. And my wife is just, she's had enough of this, frankly, after a few years. My number one most important thing for me that I'm excited about is being able to transition that into VR, where we can literally sit on a couch, feel like we're sitting next to each other. You know, it sounds sappy, but like, like we did in college. And be able to watch a game, you know, talk about it for a bit and then go back to, you know, cleaning and watching my 13 month old. So, I'm super excited about that. I just think that it adds a really nice piece of how this device fits into my life. The other one I'm doing right now that I didn't think would be exciting but really is, is showing my mother 360 videos of my son. My mom is in Nashville, Tennessee right now. She gets to come and visit. My son grows a lot over the course of, you know, three months or six months, and kind of being able to transport her back into, oh, this is when he started walking, or this is when he started eating random things, or this is when we went on vacation. has been really, like, surprisingly joyful. And so having a really portable device, I'm already ordering one for my mom, but having a portable device that I can just take and show her or my father kind of what's going on has been a ton of fun. Of course, when I want a game, personally, I love using the Oculus Rift. I found a few games on here to be pretty compelling as well. I'm playing quite a bit of coaster combat at this point. I am embarrassingly good at it.
[00:37:35.014] Kent Bye: But yeah, I know for me that the biggest ones are really this ability for me to kind of connect with people Whether it's passing them the headset or actually joining them and watching something like that to me is the thing I'm looking forward to the most Yeah, I know there was a number of different TV partners from like, you know Showtime there's a Netflix Hulu ESPN and NBA and Major League Baseball if you wanted to watch soccer and if it's not on the streaming service Is there a way to sort of pipe in anything that you want to watch? I
[00:38:03.290] Madhu Muthukumar: Are there ways to pipe in anything? No, not yet. But the good news is that Soccer has Fox Sports VR. And then I also know, given we're on the inside, and we showed some of the demos on screen, so we're partnering with NextVR, who also has a ton of soccer content. So very excited specifically about that. ESPN also has a ton of soccer content. We're excited to get the functionality of the Watch Party kind of moving. So our goal is to make that platform rich, right? The goal is to make it just obvious, where you leave the apps on your TV, you put the headset on it, and you've got all of them there. maybe that's success. Success is the idea that you're able to find just about anything that you'd want to find and watch it with someone else.
[00:38:40.155] Kent Bye: Cool. And in terms of either live streaming or having other people see what you're seeing in VR, is there any plans to be able to take what is happening in Oculus Go and either put it onto a monitor for people to see it? Or if people want to stream different experiences on Oculus Go through Twitch or other broadcasts or other Facebook Live or even YouTube streaming, are there ways to broadcast out what's happening within your VR experience?
[00:39:06.493] Madhu Muthukumar: Yeah, right now, actually at launch, if you go into the universal menu at the bottom, just the Oculus button, you click share, you can start a live stream right away. That was a top requested feature from our community. People were saying like, hey, when I play a game, I want to be able to show people what I'm playing. And we're always looking for more ways to help drive that experience. We have certainly heard that people want. to be able to take what's in the headset and show it to a screen, or with Rift, obviously, you have your monitor, and so we're always looking into ways to make that easier, but that goes through everything we do. Even in the hardware, like you'll notice, where the audio works, it's actually designed really well for people who are sitting next to each other and passing a headset back and forth, meaning you can get really rich sound, and it can surround you, and I can just hear just enough of it to know kind of what you're doing and get that FOMO feeling of like, okay, I want the headset now, you can give it to me, let me play. And so, yeah, we're constantly thinking about this. We know that sharing by passing the headset or sharing by joining someone in the headset is a super important part of making VR work for a lot of folks. We're constantly evolving the product in that way.
[00:40:02.922] Kent Bye: What are some of the biggest questions that are driving your work forward and the problems you're trying to solve?
[00:40:07.830] Madhu Muthukumar: Yeah, what do people want to do in VR? What are the things that will make people happier with their day? What will make people more productive? What will make people, you know, defy distance and connect to other people they're not otherwise doing? I think this is the hardest question. It's the one that both keeps us up at night but also excites us. Is that learning? Is that watching a movie with someone? Is that playing a game and just kind of, you know, hanging out? Well, we don't know yet, and I think it's our responsibility to try and to support developers who are doing those things with services, with headsets that make it easier for people to enter the VR ecosystem altogether. But yeah, the thing that keeps us up is how do we take this technology, which is really fantastic and magical, and how do we apply it to make people's lives actually better, whatever that might be.
[00:40:51.976] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality, and what it might be able to enable?
[00:40:59.764] Madhu Muthukumar: Oh, man, what a good question. I don't know. I'm particularly interested in the space. A long time ago in my career, I worked in South Africa for the federal government there. And one of the magical things that we saw is what technology can do in kind of changing the way people operate. When I was there, you would see people who would tweet for customer service. They literally skipped the generation of calling and waiting on the line for a rental car. They just got to this place where they were like, we'll use the internet directly. We'll email people directly. We'll text them. And I found that really magical. And when I look at VR, I think about that same kind of leap forward that's possible in spaces like education or in medicine or even entertainment. Like, you know, the notion that I have right now that I'm going to leave this interview with you and I'm going to go home tonight and I'm not going to be able to, I don't even think about seeing my roommate, for instance, like he's across the country, so it doesn't even strike me as possible. Kind of breaking that mold, getting people to realize that, you know, there is a technology that can unite folks outside of any barrier you might face with distance. I think the possibilities are endless. I'm particularly interested in obviously hanging out with my friends. That's selfish. But also education, medicine, there's so many places where I just think that this is, you know, a few years out from now, we're really going to look back and be excited about kind of the steps we've taken towards getting there.
[00:42:10.934] Kent Bye: Great. And is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say?
[00:42:14.857] Madhu Muthukumar: No, no. I think this has been a lot of fun. Have you tried it yet?
[00:42:17.579] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
[00:42:18.279] Madhu Muthukumar: Okay, good. Good. I feel like I've been talking to you the whole time, and you can hold me accountable for any of the things I just said.
[00:42:23.587] Kent Bye: Well, the one thing that I will say is that I tried this at GDC. And I think that in an open environment, having the sound come in, I feel like the sound sounded muddied and that I was getting a lot of interference from the world. Using something like this and in public spaces with sort of audio, you know blasting out I guess there's the the issue of like you broadcasting audio to disrupt other people but also the issue of that audio coming in disrupting you so I kind of see the Default settings there for maybe a private closed environment context and that you know the the sound maybe not so great Sort of being broadcast that way when you're out in the world and you might want to really get headphones. So I
[00:43:07.353] Madhu Muthukumar: Yeah, I think we want both to be enabled. I think you're right that the mode that we expect people to be using Oculus Go is one where they're sitting next to their friends or they're in their home or they've taken it to a friend's home. Those kinds of scenarios where audio being broadcast isn't a bad thing necessarily. It's actually, in some cases, a good thing. But that's also why we have the headphone jack. We understand totally that there are times where you don't want to disrupt people next to you or you're in a setting where it's noisy. And we wanted people to have that option, too. And so again, a lot of what we've built with Oculus Go comes from learning from the community and what people have been telling us. And so we want to make sure there is that option for headphones. We know there's lots of people who are really tied to that use, and that's fantastic, too.
[00:43:46.736] Kent Bye: And the only last thing that I would say is that it's exciting to see that Facebook and Oculus is giving away Oculus goes to all the developers here just to kind of really not only give the developers, who may not be VR developers, but they have access just to be immersed and engaged in the technology. And they can start just playing around with that as well. I think that before, the price points just made it. I mean, we would get free Gear VRs, but then you would have to have the $600 to $800 phone in order to get it to work. So now that you're able to actually get the technology into people's hands, I think I'm just excited to see what comes from that.
[00:44:23.672] Madhu Muthukumar: Yeah, us too. Developers are the backbone of this ecosystem. They're the ones who are going to build these fantastic experiences. You were just asking me about medicine and education and all these other amazing uses for VR. Make no mistake, it will be the developer community that gets us there. They're the ones who have the innovation. They're the ones who we're trying to empower with. the services we build or the platforms we build. And so that's part of the reason why we're so excited too. At $199, a person who wants to have a weekend hack and say, hey, I'm going to go and build something in VR has a real option to do so. We haven't talked about this, but I think you're aware already, Oculus Go is binary compatible with Samsung Gear VR, right? That makes the platform easier, hopefully, for the developer community where If you know how to build for Gear VR, good news for you. You know how to build for Oculus Go, and you can extend the reach that you have across platforms. So, you know, we keep this top of mind. It's certainly something that is not, you know, we're a developer conference. There's a reason we're launching this as a developers conference. It's a big moment for us as a company, but we're also very cognizant of the role, the very important role that developers play in making sure that VR will be successful overall. So, also, you know, I count myself in this group, too. I'm very excited to have one of these to be able to hack on.